Monday 2 February 2015

Toybox REVIEW: DC Collectibles "The New Batman Adventures" Batman

DC Collectibles TNBA Batman

Batman: The Animated Series is widely considered to be one of the greatest cartoons of all time, but despite this has never received any toys outside those that were released during it's original run (and those were actual toys rather than collectibles). But with the recent 75th anniversary of the Dark Knight, DC Collectibles have revisited the iconic show for a brand new range of high-end figures. Aiming to be as accurate to Bruce Timm's original designs as possible, this line not only features designs from B:TAS, but also the follow-up series The New Batman Adventures - which simplified the art-style somewhat to bring it more in line with Superman: The Animated Series and subsequently the rest of the DC Animated Universe. So to kick off the line is of course Batman, based on his 1997 New Batman Adventures look.

Packaging front

Card backInsert traysForthcoming figures flyer

As someone who's used to buying Japanese figures that come in simple rectangular boxes, I always lament a little when I return to the more common plastic bubble/cardback style packing. If you're someone who likes to keep the packing in one piece (whether it be for display purposes or simply to keep all the parts together - something which could be a key issue here as we'll find out further down), it always sucks to have to cut the plastic open to just get the figure out. But ignoring my personal preferences, this is some pretty bold figure packaging. There isn't actually very much to it all, but it works SO well. The front of the features a black New Batman Adventures logo against a blue background, while the back reverses that with a blue logo and a black background. That's it - no bios, no forthcoming releases, no anything other than the barcode info in a strip on the back. The insert card in front of the figure also uses the same font as the series logo, which is a really nice touch.

Also included in the packaging is small flyer with the Batman: The Animated Series and The New Batman Adventures logos on one side, and a checklist of the forthcoming releases on the other. It's worth noting that this flyer only covers the first three waves of the line, with a fourth wave consisting of B:TAS Batman, Riddler, Penguin and TNBA Batgirl having been announced for a July release.

Batman out of the box

Figure frontFigure back

Posing BatmanThe Dark Knight stands firmMore posing

The leaflet I mentioned above also states that each figure is supposed to represent the character from a  specific episode of the series, with this Batman coming from "Mean Seasons". Although the truth is, this is how Batman looked in all of the TNBA episodes so I'm not sure what the point of it is really (or why they chose that particular episode). But damn is that sculpt perfect! Other than the rather obvious joint cuts (which probably could have been hidden better, but oh well), Batman looks like he's leapt right out of the show. Compared to my last venture into the world of DC figures, it feels like DC Collectibles have upped their game significantly. Even the articulation range is considerably more impressive, with Batman sporting all manner of ball joints, hinges and swivel joints. It's especially relieving to see DCC incorporate a waist swivel, because that key section really helps bring the figure to life.

Of course, being a DC Collectibles figure there's going to be problems - two notable ones in particular. One is something that couldn't really be avoided, but the other is just typical DCC for you. Bruce Timm's designs have a rather distinct look to them, and the whole bulky torso/tiny feet and ankles thing understandably doesn't translate very well into 3D plastic figures. So despite this figure being capable of a fair range of poses, how much you'll be able to pull off with such a small surface area to balance on is another matter entirely. That said, Batman still manages to pull off the essential poses well enough so I'm glad the painstaking accuracy wasn't sacrificed for the sake of bigger feet.

But the real problem is the joints, and man are they a problem. A common problem for a lot of DC Collectibles figures, the joints are INCREDIBLY stiff to begin with and applying too much pressure in order to move them can very easily lead to breakage. The shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles...the problem is there across the entire body. If you're planning on picking up this figure, make sure you work the joints slowly with minimal pressure so that they'll be able to utilise their full range of motion properly. And even then that might not be enough - just as I was finishing up this photoshoot Batman's left ankle snapped. A bit of glue has fixed the problem well enough, but I doubt I'll be making full use of that joint ever again.

Throwing a Batarang

The other grappling gun accessoryTime to scale a buildingThrowing a punch

Batman in action

However this is the part where things start to get really interesting, and show that this line has the potential to be something rather special. Unlike a lot of DC Collectibles figures (and American-produced collector's figures in general) where you may get one accessory if you're lucky, Batman comes with an entire mini-tray full! Included are nine swappable hands (including the closed fists already connected to the body), baterang, grappling gun and a few other extra goodies that I'll talk about further down the review. Getting a baterang figure may feel like a given for a Batman figure, but you have no idea how good it feels to get one with an animated series figure that can actually pull off throwing poses. The inclusion of a loose grappling gun is rather pointless though, as not only does one of the alternate hands has the gun moulded in but none of the other hands can really hold the loose one properly. I guess there wasn't a whole lot else for Batman to come without outside of some one-off episode pieces, so perhaps an extra accessory just for the sake of an extra accessory shouldn't be scoffed at. Especially if it turns out the other Bat family figures don't come with their own ones later down the line.

Like the fists, each of the alternate hands is jointed and will likely need careful loosening in order to work properly. This is considerably harder that working the figure joints, since there's the plastic peg is rather thin and prone to snapping. As long as the peg fits in the wrist okay, you might want to consider whether you want to risk breaking the plastic for a few millimetres either way of articulation.

Swapping capes

Batman sans capeSans cape again

Also included are two alternate cape pieces - a static one which is completely draped over the shoulders and then a second pulled black/billowing one which restricts the shoulders less for action poses (this is also the one attached to the figure in the packing). Both capes are made of a soft, rubbery plastic which isn't likely to break or tear as well as being somewhat malleable for whatever pose you're looking to get your Batman in. Of course with the capes being removable it also means that the figure doesn't even have to wear one at all (in case you wanted to recreate some sort of scene where he had to take the cape off for whatever reason). The only problem with that is that thanks to a pretty small neck he actually looks completely ridiculous without one. At least the option is there though!

Batman + base

The stand baseThe assembled stand

Finally each figure in this new B:TAS/TNBA range also comes with a unique display stand, featuring turnaround art of the character in question along with the respective series' logo. The stand arm itself is of the claw variety, clamping around the figure rather than plugging directly into it's back. Of course, being Batman the cape gets in the way anyway so it needs to be raised over the stand in order to work. Just as well it's made of flexible plastic eh?

As much as I LOVE the inclusion of a stand (especially with the art), I do wish that the base was a little bigger. As it stands (no pun intended), it's only really good for displaying the figure in the most basic of poses, and doesn't really look right when used for the more dynamic ones as the figure won't really be standing on it. Still, when you look at the ridiculously tiny ankles on these designs including a display stand was pretty much a necessity and I'm glad DC Collectibles were sensible enough to include them.

Batman & his accessories

Giving this figure a final rating proved really hard, because I SO wanted to give it a perfect score. It's easily one of the best Batman figures I've ever had - not only having a near PERFECT likeness to Bruce Timm's original New Batman Adventures art but also coming with the kind of accessory count you wouldn't at all expect from any Western-produced figures, let alone DC Collectibles. But as great as it is, no figure that's had so many breakage problems can be considered perfect. The tiny ankles and stiff joints are a definite problem, so be sure to be extremely careful with the figure and work the joints slowly on both the figure and the alternate hands.

Other than that, enjoy what is quite likely the best animated Batman figure there has ever been! Well, at least until the Batman: The Animated Series version comes out this July anyway...

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